Sorting through job descriptions, completing applications, interviewing with managers and waiting for “the call” can be a daunting and, at times, painstaking experience.
Any adult who has waded into the pool of possibilities or has aggressively pursued potential positions is all too familiar with the blood, sweat and tears the job hunt demands — and yields.
Compounding the normal stress of searching for gainful employment was the fear so many people felt of being infected by COVID-19, its lingering effects or even death. This venom resulted in schools and businesses closing, children learning virtually, and unemployment soaring. For single mothers, the economic impact has been devastating.
More than 18 months later, many countries, including the United States, appear to be awakening from their viral slumber. More and more people are becoming fully vaccinated and summer is fast approaching.
With summer comes the ritual of teens having summer employment, perhaps their first one. And it is this throng of restless youth my son, Joseph, has joined in his search for his first job.
Like so many, his adventure has required a certain tenacity that does not necessarily yield the sense of accomplishment that his hard work earns when applied to his studies. I’m sure he and I will encounter what is affectionately referred to as “learning experiences” or “teachable moments” along the way.
Knowing that I am not alone as a parent, particularly a single parent, I gathered some information to help other single moms and single dads guide their teenage daughters and sons through this time-honored tradition.
Joseph’s job hunt — so far
With the end of the school year only weeks away, pressure had been mounting for Joseph to secure a job.
He turned to me for suggestions on how to approach this endeavor, and I couldn’t help but reflect on how easy it was for me to find a job at his age.
In the late 1980s, I walked across the street from my house and asked for an application at the Roy Rogers fast-food restaurant. The manager handed me a paper application, which I completed there at one of the tables, and met with her for an interview about 15 minutes later. I left with a job and the date and time when I was expected to start my first — of many — shifts.
But today, it’s different.
Most applications are completed online on the business’ website or through large employment websites, like Indeed. The competition for any position is tougher because the internet allows for more people to apply, rather than the people who boldly or desperately walk in the door.
Because we live in a relatively rural area, I suggested that Joseph should look at businesses close to home, which for him meant pursuing jobs no more than 30 minutes away. He completed around five online applications where he featured his volunteer work, grade point average, school activities and personality. He also corralled references from his teachers and a wonderful neighbor and family friend.
The waiting game for him began.
Interview 30 minutes from home
A day after he applied to a deli franchise, he received a call from a manager who wanted to meet him for an interview. He was excited but confused. The interview was at a deli in Maryland, but Joseph had deliberately checked off franchise locations in Pennsylvania when he completed his applications. He was hoping that a deli five minutes from our house would have an opening.
I thought that perhaps the manager owned one of the franchise locations near us, maybe the very one Joseph was eyeing. Could it be possible that the manager also owned the location in Maryland where he would meet Joseph?
Another issue was Joseph only had a work permit for Pennsylvania where we live. If he got the job in Maryland, he would need a permit to work there, the details of which I was unclear.
Despite these concerns, Joseph decided to go to the interview. So, that Sunday, we drove to the deli, a 30-minute ride, and discussed the questions Joseph may encounter. Well-wishes accompanied Joseph when he was dropped off.
The waiting game began — this time, for me — but only for 10 minutes.
He wants you to work what?
Joseph seemed a bit anxious and excited when I heard his voice on my cellphone. He quickly told me that he had been offered a position and the hourly wage. He asked if he could start the following weekend — per the manager’s request — and I told him to tell the manager we would need to get a Maryland work permit.
As I drove to pick him up, I thought about the commute to this deli and the hours he would work. The logistics would be challenging but I would find a way. I always have.
Once Joseph got into the car, I pressed him for more details.
With the manager miles away, Joseph told me with some hesitancy that he was expected to work a 12-hour shift — at least. What?!
And he would probably work alone during those shifts. What?!
There was no way Joseph would be working 12 hours in one day for how ever many days and alone in many cases!
Did the manager not realize he was a minor?
Did the manager not have any concern for his safety?
And only one day of training?
Seriously?! What was he thinking?
Needless to say, I objected — loudly — and he passed on that job offer
And so Joseph’s adventure continues. Dear reader, I’ll let you know once he finds a position, hopefully, sooner than later.
Tips for parents and teens in the job search
Because job hunting has become more involved, parents and teens, particularly those younger than 18 years of age, should work together. Following are some suggestions for navigating this process:
Parents may need to be enlisted to help secure a work permit also known as working papers. To complete the application, your teen may require certain documents, such as their birth certificate, which you should have in your possession, or your signature.
Parents should be aware of the employment laws that affect their teenagers. Minors are legally permitted to work a certain number of hours and may not be permitted to work in certain industries depending on their age and the state where they live.
These protections are in place to ensure the safety of children in the workplace. Without them, youth would be subjected to the abuse, neglect and death so many suffered at the hands of businesses in the past in the United States, including my Italian grandmother and her sisters and brothers in the early 1900s.
Parents should investigate their teen’s potential employers. Not all businesses are reputable or legitimate — and some are. The Better Business Bureau in your state is a great resource for complaints and compliments as well as Glassdoor.
Interests and opportunities
In the meantime, teens should determine their interests and list the places they would like to work. However, you must be reasonable. Without experience, your options are limited. Fast-food restaurants and retail establishments are willing to train new employees with no experience. Amusement parks and summer camps may also offer opportunities.
Application process and resume
Every job requires an application. Teens should make sure they have accurate, verifiable work experience, volunteer work or both as well as references with phone numbers, titles and addresses. Before adding someone as a reference, you should ask for their permission and inform them of the position where they are listed.
This information also can be added to a resume if the potential employer requests one as part of the application process. And yes, resumes aren’t just for adults anymore.
In the resume, teens should add their school activities, grade point average, honors, interests, goals and contact information. You should not list an email that is silly or irreverent. If you have a school email and can use that for your application, you should do so; if not, you should create an appropriate email.
As you review your resume, you should double-check — and triple-check — your contact information. It would be a shame if a potential employer could not reach you because of a wrong or missed number or incorrectly spelled email.
And, speaking of spelling, you should spellcheck your resume as well. Your parent’s extra pair of eyes could catch a mistake you simply didn’t “see.”
This link offers some templates to assist you in creating an effective, yet simple, resume.
As you compile your experience, do not plagiarize! You will get caught!
The job interview is the teen’s opportunity to show their potential employer how wonderful they are and what they can offer the role they are seeking.
When you receive a call from a potential employer, you should speak to them rather than text them. Texting is too informal. If you receive a text about a job, you should exercise caution and tell your parents. Some job scammers text applicants.
You also should make sure you can attend the interview at the time and date specified. You should review your personal schedule to avoid any conflicts. You may also want to check with your parent’s schedule if you need them to drive you to the interview.
Before your interview, you should bathe, brush your teeth and comb your hair — yes, this needs to be said. Your clothes should be clean and pressed and appropriate for the interview. When you set up your interview, you should ask the manager what you should wear to avoid any unnecessary embarrassments.
Also, you may want to bring a nice notepad without silly or irreverent pictures or words on it and a pen or pencil to jot down information during the interview. If you bring a pen, you should test it beforehand to make sure it works.
You should arrive a few minutes early so you can compose yourself. If you are late, you should call the manager as soon as possible. They may want to reschedule.
Sometimes, you may not want to go to a job interview. You may decide the time and date are not convenient for you or you are no longer interested in the position. If the former, you should call the manager and reschedule. If the latter, you should also call the manager, thank them for the opportunity and tell them you are no longer interested. Basic civility is simply good practice.
Websites with jobs just for teens
Online job searches can be fruitful if teens and parents know where to go.
A great resource is Hire Teen. This website offers jobs for teens by age, type and location as well as informative blogs on completing applications and interviewing, among others. I explored this website and discovered several opportunities that I passed along to Joseph.
Another option is Snagajob. This website is similar to Hire Teen, offering jobs for teens specifically as well as useful articles.
If you know of a particular business that is hiring teens, I would strongly recommend that you should go directly to its website and search for an application under Employment or Careers. The business may have additional instructions on how to submit an application.
The job hunt can be discouraging and frustrating, but parents and teens should not abandon this pursuit. Every application is one step closer. Every interview is one step closer. Eventually, that one step closer results in a job. Perseverance takes courage and in the end, you and your teen can and will reap your rewards.
As A.A. Milne said in “Winnie the Pooh,” “Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
On Thursdays, I share a blog about a day in the actual life of a single parent. Every other Thursday, instead of a personal post, I put together one where I assemble news on and about single parents nationally and globally.